Things You Didn’t Know You’d Learn Before Becoming a Father

How to recognize your children by not only their voice (obviously), but the sounds of their footsteps, their coughs, their sneezes, and the way they open and shut doors.

How to recognize who raided the pantry in the nighttime by what hour it is when you hear the noise.

Who has been snacking by what types of plates/bowls/utensils are still on the counter. And the associated crumbs.

Contrary to many popular culture references, your in-laws are pretty decent people.

You will never get enough sleep. Not even when the kid sleeps ‘through the night’. Because that just means they’re waking up at 5:37 AM with a full diaper and a full tank of gas.

How to really multi-task: driving, having a conversation, listening to NPR, and swatting an arm into the back seat to break up a fight.

The appropriate use of phrases such as “Don’t make me come back there!”, “When I was your age,”, and “Where’s the remote?”

You actually can survive being peed on, pooped on, vomited on, snotted on, and sticking your hand inside the crack between the car’s seats to search for a lost bubbie only to find a three-month-old deposit of ketchup that has partially congealed into what feels like a slug in the middle of decomposition.

The suburbs kind of suck. Despite that you’ll still choose to live there because you’ve bought into the fantasy of everyone having their own kingdom.

You’ll never finish washing all the dishes.

Baldness is hereditary. Thing is, all the scientists are wrong about the direction of transfer. In this case, you get it from your kids.

Everybody’s winging it. Yes, that means your parents and grandparents, who looked like they had it all figured out. Which also means that your children and grandchildren will look at you, right now, and believe that you really do have your shit together. Good job, duck.

What that last reference meant. And how accurate it really is.

Your Dad really did like those crappy gifts you got and made him for Father’s Day. Because even if you only did it at the insistent urging of your mother, it felt good to be recognized.

That benchmark “Cost of raising a child” being something like $225k is waaaaay off. The economics are just half of the equation. There’s also the emotional cost of worrying, planning, and letting go. The physical cost on your body because you don’t have enough time to work out like you did in your 20s. The social cost because your “friends” disappear and are replaced by associations with the Dads of your kids’ friends and teammates. The career burden because you’re always feeling like you’re not doing enough for everyone who depends on you, so you’re constantly seeking to support them more through a raise and promotion, a “better” job because it has less travel and shorter commute, when all you really wanted to do was just be good at your role and enjoy it. The psychological loss because once you have children, you stop being you and morph into Brayden’s father or Kelsie’s dad, losing your identity as a real person in your own right with your own hopes and dreams and fears, putting them aside “for the good of the children” because that’s what everyone else does, even though we all subconsciously understand that in doing so we’re propagating an emotionally-destructive, socially-negative paradigm that engenders a perpetual focus on making things better for the next generation but never actually stops to appreciate the things the generations before us made better, in some misguided view of our own worthlessness to have those nice things because of how much those generations tell us they’ve sacrificed in order to get to this point, ultimately condemning our children to perform the same charades that we decry and detest and wish someone else would change, doing it “for their children”, even though we intrinsically know that if everyone would just stop it already we’d all be better off.

Dad jokes are a thing because Dads actually like them.

Happy Father’s Day, my friends!

Extremely Bad Advice – Child Misbehavior

Dear SJ,

My wife and I are having a disagreement about our son. He is 11 years old and is starting to misbehave. My wife wants to make him do extra chores around the house when he’s getting out of line, in order to show him that his actions have consequences. I say that unless the chores are directly related to what he did, he won’t associate them together. Like last week – he broke a window in the family room by throwing a ball through it. That’s easy enough; he has to pay for the window replacement. But what about being disobedient, or just lazy? Are there chores we can assign that are punishments for these kind of actions? — FRUSTRATED IN FARGO

Dear FRUSTRATED,

I’m sure you don’t want to hear this, but your wife is right. There absolutely are consequences for your actions, and sometimes they aren’t even directly associated with the thing you’ve done, except for a roundabout way. For example: last month I had sex with your mom. She was pretty tight, for an old broad, I’ll give her that. As a result, it now burns when I pee. Goddamn, but I thought I was done with STDs back in college! Anyway, the direct consequence is now I have to go to my doctor. The indirect consequence is I have to deal with a clingy grandma who just won’t go away and keeps texting me like six times a night to come over and give her another good one. It’s almost enough to block her. But it’s not just her. Apparently the whole bridge club is in on the deal. Sheesh, you make one old woman shudder uncontrollably and you never hear the end of it.

So, in your situation, your son has absolutely got to learn that actions have consequences. Break a window? Pay for it out of your allowance. Front a disobedient attitude? Get a dismissive one in return. It looks like this: “Well, since you didn’t hold up your end of the parent-child relationship and disobeyed me, I’m not going to hold up my end either. No dinner for you! Enjoy the soup kitchen.” If you’re feeling generous you can print out a Google Maps set of walking directions.

However, that’s pretty tame by my standards. Just telling you to be a jerk probably isn’t what you’re looking for. That’s just bad advice, and it would probably only solve the surface problem of misbehavior. You want Extremely Bad Advice which will not just deal with the symptoms of the disease infecting your life, it will actually root out the cause and eliminate that forever. Here’s what you need to do.

Next time your son does something wrong, you actually reward that behavior. Go buy him a puppy! Or a new dirt bike, or video game, or something he’s been asking for for a while. This kind of reverse psychology will start to fuck with his head really quickly. He’ll tell his friends what he did and how you reacted. They’ll all start trying it with their parents but getting opposite results, and pretty quickly he’s wondering just what happened with you. He’ll try it a few more times. Double down on the technique. When he back-talks you in front of his teacher, take him out for ice cream. If he comes home late from a friend’s house, supply him with rotten eggs and you both go whip them at the crusty old couple down the street.

In a few months this kind of mental mind-warp (the difference between what you do and what a typical “good parent” does) will break down any remaining sense of logic and rationality the kid has. At that point one of two things will happen, both of which solve your problem pretty quickly. Option one, he dissolves into a quivering, immobile blob on the floor, blathering on and on about “friends say … mom says … friends don’t … dad does …” and your disobedience problem is resolved. Kind of replaced with a permanent diapering problem, but at least he’s compliant. Option two, he finally can’t take it any longer and runs away. Presto! Instant happy house and no more sass from the kid.

Trust me on this one. You can’t do any better for yourself and your own happiness than psychological torture. Good luck!